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Our choices in Puyallup council, school board races

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 27, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
July 27, 2011 4:06 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Puyallup City Council’s personality-driven feuds could cool considerably with the introduction of several new faces this fall.

The selection of a new city manager last year has already done much to de-escalate the tensions among council members. But the factions – or at least a public perception of them – seem destined to endure as long as the nameplates on the council dais remain the same.

That is guaranteed to change come January, when the council gets at least three and possibly four new members, thanks in part to the city’s new term limits.

The wild card is Nicole Martineau, who chose to run for an at-large seat rather than defend the District 1 position the council appointed her to last year.
She’s facing heavy opposition from three other candidates, but none is better than Steve Vermillion.

A Puyallup businessman and decorated retired Army officer, Vermillion crossed party lines last year to endorse Democrat Dawn Morrell for Legislature after his own Republican bid failed in the primary.

Puyallup needs more of that kind of independent streak. Vermillion says he finds himself aligned with Councilmen John Knutsen and Rick Hansen on some issues, but there is little doubt he would be his own man on the council.

Martineau, a substitute teaching assistant for the Puyallup School District, has drawn flak for some of her decisions, but she offers reasoned and persuasive arguments in support of her votes. If elected, she also would be the only remaining woman on the council.

If voters are generally happy with the direction of the city, they should vote for Martineau. If they, like Vermillion, think the city has done a poor job managing its finances, they should pick him.

In the District 1 race, one candidate is heads above the rest: John Hopkins, a semi-retired manager of commercial rental properties and former electrician and physics teacher. He is a member of the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission and Puyallup Main Street board.

Hopkins is Hansen’s business partner on some downtown properties, but doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with his fellow businessman.

His common-sense take on council affairs is reflected in his view of a recent controversy over the starting time of council meetings. “It annoys me that they have spent so much time talking about it,” he says, offering that the council should compromise by scheduling executive sessions at the beginning so that latecomers don’t miss the public discussion.

In addition to selecting council members, voters also will pick a new school board member this fall. They should beware of wasting their votes. Dane Looker, a former NFL player, is on the ballot but has pulled out of the race for school board to focus on a 2012 run for Legislature.

Even before Looker withdrew, the top candidate was Therese Ngo Pasquier, a woman with an obvious passion for education and one of the strongest school board candidates we’ve interviewed.

She is development director for the Tacoma Philharmonic and has served on several community boards, including the Emergency Food Network and Good Samaritan Hospital.

She has also been heavily involved in the school district, working on a parent involvement task force and secondary grading practices committee.

Pasquier is likely to appeal to both supporters and detractors of Superintendent Tony Apostle, whom she gives a B for strategic thinking but a D for communication. She would like to see Apostle make more use of social media to reach out to the community.

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